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Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov inspired by Fabrice Muamba example

Updated: Saturday, 31 Mar 2012 22:56

Stiliyan Petrov - "For me, football will have to take a back seat for a while"
Stiliyan Petrov - "For me, football will have to take a back seat for a while"

Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov has revealed he is taking inspiration from Fabrice Muamba after he announced on Friday he had been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

The 32-year-old is due to begin treatment in a London hospital on Monday, but made the trip to Villa Park on Saturday to watch his side's Barclays Premier League meeting with Chelsea.

Petrov released a statement shortly after arriving at the ground, thanking the football community for their support.

The Bulgaria international vowed to fight the disease and revealed he was using Bolton midfielder Muamba as inspiration.

Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham a fortnight ago, but has defied expectation in his recovery at the London Chest Hospital.

Petrov revealed a picture of Muamba sitting up in bed released yesterday had inspired him, along with numerous well-wishes, to get back to health.

"I would like to thank all of the people who have left messages of support. The response has been overwhelming and I appreciate it very much," Petrov said.

"This is a difficult time for my family and myself and I ask people to respect my privacy.

"With the help and love of my family, my team-mates, all of my friends in football, Aston Villa and all of the fans, I am sure I will beat this illness and I am determined to do this.

"I saw the picture released yesterday by Fabrice Muamba, my fellow player, and it has inspired me as has all of the support in the past 24 hours.

"For me, football will have to take a back seat for a while, but I'm here to support my team-mates today and I will continue to support them as I know they will support me. Thank you to everyone."

The statement was read out just before this afternoon's match to applause and chants of 'There's only one Stiliyan Petrov' from all sections of the support.

Both sets of players wore shirts to show their support in the warm-up. Villa's players wore shirts reading 'Support Stan' while the message on the Chelsea shirts read, 'Our thoughts are with you'.

Villa fans stood and applauded during the 19th minute of the match, in reference to the fact Petrov wears the number 19 shirt.

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo praised the professionalism of his players as they put to one side the emotion surrounding Petrov to triumph 4-2 at Villa Park.

Di Matteo said: "Our players wore the T-shirts saying 'we support you' before the game and we really feel for the players and the person as well.

"It was an emotional day today. You can see how the football community comes together at these times."

Referring to Muamba, Di Matteo added: "Lately we've had some terrible news about a couple of Premier League players but it is great to see how everyone gives their support.

"But once the game starts you have to focus on your task and game plan - and we did that."

Petrov spoke to his team-mates in the dressing room before the game and watched proceedings from an executive box with his family.

Villa boss Alex McLeish said: "It was great to see him and his presence inspired a lot of people.

"He came on and shook everyone's hands and the boys were not sure whether to cry or hug him."

Rangers manager Ally McCoist sent the club's best wishes to Petrov, a former player of Old Firm rivals Celtic.

McCoist said: "On behalf of everybody at the football club - every member of staff and every supporter - we wish Stiliyan Petrov all the very best in his fight for a more important thing than anything and that's his health.

"He was a fantastic Old Firm player and he is a top player and we wish him all the best."

The Villa skipper had made a trip to London yesterday after his diagnosis was revealed but made the return journey late last evening to attend today's fixture.

The illness was diagnosed after Petrov had complained of suffering with a fever following last week's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.

Petrov will now start treatment on Monday in a London hospital in his battle to overcome the illness.

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